General election 2019: Party leaders say nothing of IR35 reform to employers

Hopes that Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson wants to stop 2020’s off-payroll rules have been dashed.

Neither she, Jeremy Corbyn nor Boris Johnson even mentioned IR35 in a series of fresh pre-election pledges to the business community yesterday.

The hopes that Ms Swinson was against the IR35 reform were raised by a ContractorUK reader on Friday, when he Tweeted that she replied to an email he had sent vowing her “support to stop” the April 2020 framework.

But addressing business leaders at the Confederation British Industry (CBI) annual conference on Monday, the leader of the Liberal Democrats failed to utter IR35 or its reform on a single occasion. Her party’s manifesto is also silent on the legislation.

Similarly, Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn came nowhere close to mentioning IR35 reform in their speeches to the UK’s largest employers’ organisation, despite the PM having been written to by 11 contracting stalwarts to oppose it.

'Growing day-to-day costs'

Yet the CBI may not be all that disappointed. Its 2019 election manifesto neglects to address IR35 reform, under which all mid-sized and large employers will be forced to decide the IR35 status of PSC contractors that they engage.

The confederation’s manifesto does make some allusions to the April rules, however.

In fact, the CBI urges government to address the “growing day-to-day costs” that firms face of doing business, and “urgently” wants a new timetable for the 2019/20 Finance Bill.

'Rushed IR35 rules are the last thing firms need'

Meanwhile, staffing group the REC and contractor body IPSE, will be disappointed at IR35 not being uttered yesterday by any of the three party leaders, as both organisation have it central to their newly published manifestos.

Tom Hadley, a director at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) writes in the REC’s document: “Delay IR35 [reform], as rushed legislation is the last thing business needs at the current time.”

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) agrees.

'At least two-year delay'

IPSE’s 2019 manifesto states: “Repeal the changes to the IR35 legislation or, failing this, pause the roll-out of the changes to the off-payroll working rules to the private sector for at least two years until a full review of its implementation in the public sector has taken place.”

But online yesterday, some in the contractor sector sounded like even if the major parties did commit to addressing IR35 reform, such commitments would not necessarily mean much.

“All parties tell you what you want to hear and never deliver once they're in government,” said one IT contractor, commenting under an archived news report of a previous Tory government pledging to axe IR35.

The contractor added: “I'm sure IR35 [reform] in the private sector will pass [into law]….IR35 will [only] become a big topic when it negatively impacts the economy and multiple business sectors cannot deliver goods, services and projects.

“[And] I'm sure the big consultancy companies are rubbing their hands together. Businesses should be joining this battle. They face uncertainty, similar to Brexit, if this is introduced into the private sector.”

'New IR35 legislation is ready to go'

Contractor tax advisory Pendragon Consultancy also believes private sector IR35 reform is now going ahead no matter what -- and no matter who occupies No 10 on December 13th.

Writing on LinkedIn yesterday, the advisory said: “It's not the government’s decision -- it's the Treasury’s and they are proceeding.

“Having spent several hours at HMRC on Tuesday, [we can assert that] this legislation is ready to go, as soon as [the] government returns in January whoever wins [the December general election].”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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